Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 20, 2010
Mining companies fight back against accountability campaign
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER
TORONTO - Canada's mining industry is fighting back against a Catholic-led campaign to hold it accountable for damage they are doing in poorer nations.
Last spring, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace flooded Parliament Hill with more than 153,000 postcards calling for Ottawa to hold mining companies accountable for damage they are doing to the environment and communities in poor countries.
The Prospectors and Developers Association, dominated by junior mining and exploration companies, is urging its members to order up bundles of postcards that mining company employees can mail in opposing Bill C-300.
A PDA spokesperson would not tell The Catholic Register how many postcards it has mailed out to its members.
Bill C-300 will come up for third reading and its first hour of debate on Sept. 20. The bill then goes to the bottom of the order paper and won't likely return for a second hour of debate and a vote until late October.
However, theoretically, the private member's bill could be voted on as soon as Sept. 27. Liberal MP John McKay's bill would create a complaint process that would try to make Canadian mining firms take a socially responsible stance abroad.
In 2009, instead of the third-party complaint process agreed to by industry and NGOs, the government launched a voluntary process that allows complaints to be investigated only if the company agrees to the investigation.
The Prospectors and Developers Association says McKay's bill is punitive, will encourage frivolous complaints and will damage Canada's reputation abroad.
"That's like saying having a legal system is going to ruin the reputation of individuals," said Mary Durran, CCODP program officer.
Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of the Latin American Episcopal Conference, wrote to the government of Canada asking for stronger Canadian regulation of mining companies in 2006, said Durran.
Bill C-300 would deny companies consular support and government-backed export financing if they violate a basic code of corporate social responsibility. Canadian regulation is necessary given how regularly Canadian companies avoid regulation in poor countries, Durran said. "In most developing countries the judiciary is too weak to actually be effective against Canadian companies."
"I've kind of given up on self-regulation," said Toronto MP McKay.
"These folks talk a good talk. They have great annual general meetings. Their reports are magnificent. They have beautiful pictures of happy, smiling people. But the realities are distressingly different."
Most Canadians aren't aware of how rogue mining companies are damaging Canada's reputation, McKay said.
"You can't be the Chinese. You can't be the Russians. You have to be world leaders - not only in technology, which I think (Canadian mining companies) are - but you have to be world leaders in the way you treat people," McKay said.
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